Monday, May 22 marks the first meeting of Hawke’s Bay’s Climate Action Joint Committee, whose need was first confirmed by our Local Government Leaders Forum last October … seven months ago.

So much for urgency.

The Joint Committee consists of two councillors from each of HB’s elected councils, plus two members each from the HBRC Māori Committee and the Māori membership of the HBRC’s Regional Planning Committee – 14 members, chaired by HBRC’s chair, Hinewai Ormsby.

Per its Terms of Reference, finally set for adoption Monday, “The focus of the Joint Committee will be promoting action to mitigate climate change (emissions reductions and offsetting) and adapt to the changing regional climate.” 

A Regional Emissions Reduction Plan will be developed and the Joint Committee will recommend actions for partner councils “to consider” for inclusion in their Long Term Plans.

What is not delegated to the Joint Committee are, “Decisions related to the allocation of funding for undertaking investigations, studies and/or projects in climate adaptation, offsetting or climate mitigation and matters related to consenting.”

In other words, we’ll still have five climate plans, the same as we do five of everything else in Hawke’s Bay.

Thankfully, a staff backgrounder prepared for the initial meeting emphasises that “a singular focus on adaptation will not be sufficient to protect communities for the future”. Emissions must be reduced.

I am confident the responsible staffers involved in this work truly appreciate the significance of that strategic statement. It remains to be seen whether our councillors and Māori leaders do (for example, CHB’s Locality Plan calls for focusing on adaptation) … or the public at large for that matter. I strongly recommend reading Item 6 of the Agenda papers, titled Climate resilient development – purpose and objectives in a recovery context.

Important background has been provided by HBRC to each territorial authority regarding its emissions profile. These independent assessments should guide the planning of individual councils. Charts summarising each district’s profile are pasted below.

That said, collective goals for reducing regional emissions are needed, and ultimately any HB climate plan must “have regard to” the National Adaptation Plan mandated by legislation. For example, that Plan in its current incarnation sets a target of 24-47% reduction in biogenic methane emissions (primarily from ruminant animals).

Also in the works is a ‘spatial-based climate change risk and vulnerabilities assessment’, essentially a mapping tool that will overlay all of the region’s infrastructure assets against climate vulnerabilities and localised socioeconomic data. What is most threatened and who will feel the pain?

So, the requisite planning tools are in hand or on the way. Ample data is on the table documenting the catastropic seriousness of the global predicament and making crystal clear the on-the-ground impacts right here in Hawke’s Bay. It’s time for the rubber to meet the road.

The first step will be for councillors to fully accept the implications of the data laid in front of them, which would be signaled by their far greater sense of urgency in terms of both direct action and mobilising community response. Not just the customary post-meeting media release with the requisite but tired ‘We care’ rhetoric from each council luminary.


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1 Comment

  1. Well said Tom. If HBRC are serious about actually doing something then free express buses at rush hour(s) between Napier and Hastings CBD would be a good start. How much fuel (and therefore money) is being wasted at the moment with vehicles crawling along the expressway?

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